It was a warm night with a lazy sunset over the sea as I was waiting for the painting group on the viewing terrace at Palermo airport. Sicily was in full spring mood already and the colours of wild flowers mingled with the oranges and yellows of citrus fruits. Next day at the Fattoria Mose, the mist from the night before had cleared and given way to brilliant sunshine and a marvellously blue sky, a great beginning to our Sicilian adventure.
After a leisurely breakfast involving a variety of home made jams and marmalades everybody was ready and eager to face the first painting day. We enjoyed an exploratory stroll around the various gardens, buildings, olive and orange groves and settled happily onto our new surroundings. There was no shortage of subjects to choose from: Archways, ancient olive trees (some 500-700 years old!) old pottery, wild flowers, landscapes prickly pears and Acacia trees heavy with yellow blossoms.
For my first demonstration of the week I focused on a nearside object, the huge, old olive vessels grouped around the trunk of a magnificent Palm tree. A perfect motive to get started. We got more adventures the following day and set off to the nearby Lido, a long stretch of beach below the historic town of Agrigento. The sea-shore, sparkling ever brighter as the day progressed, was only rivalled by the blue striped blinds in the building that made our foreground motif. The setting had the mood of an Edward Hopper painting: the modern house fronted by two palm trees with endless blue sea beyond. The local bars and Gelaterias were very welcome for a snack and refreshing drink, or a delicious Sicilian ice-cream.
Tuesday, our third day, was wonderfully sunny again, and we spent another day painting at the Fattoria Mose. This time I chose for my morning demonstration the half open terrace gate with views through to the farmyard and distant landscape. Framed by ochre coloured walls and flower pots, this is also the gateway frequently used by the numerous puppy dogs and cats - painting subjects in themselves, though somewhat unreliable. After the day's work it's lovely to relax on one of the terraces or gardens with a cup of tea or an early glass of wine. A just reward, as one watches the sun slowly disappear behind the hills. Soon to be followed by another delicious home-cooked meal. The food at the Fattoria is rather special; home-grown produce when in season and following traditional recipes of the Agnello family who have lived for several generations at the Fattoria Mose. Chiara Agnello and her sister Simonetta Hornby even featured recently in their own Sicilian television series (not Montalbano!) dedicated to their uniquely local way of cooking.
Midweek, painting took a bit of a back seat, when most of us went on an exciting tour to see the world famous mosaics at the Piazza a Marina, a complex of Roman Villas. The mosaics are highly detailed, and well-preserved. One wall even depicts a group of young women in bikinis exercising in the gym – an astonishingly modern scene. Thus inspired we followed the historic motif, and went to paint another famous sight. The ancient golden Greek temples in the beautiful Vallee di Templi. At the foot of the stone steps leading to he temple of Juno we found shade under pine and olive trees. The tricky bits were not as one would imagine, the magnificent temple columns, but some of the trees and cacti adoring the scene. Plant-life seems to be one of the greatest challenges in outdoor painting. It was however a good opportunity to talk about ways of how to tackle 'greens' the easy way.
We had a chance to practice mixing greens on our last day at the Fattoria, with time to spare for unfinished paintings. There was excitement in the air as we were getting ready for the last night's showing of the best of the week's paintings. It was a delight to see everybody's work, exchange experiences, and marvel at the diversity of the styles and subjects. We celebrated the end of the course with home grown artichokes, wine and song, until it was time to throw a few things into the suitcase for our departure the next day.
The Sicilian sun, Chiara's warm hospitality, and the many subjects to paint combined with the enthusiasm and friendship of our group made this a very enjoyable painting week indeed, and I cannot wait to go back in 2016.
"Such A great group in Sicily, loved the week."
"The best painting holiday I had for a long time. Learned so much from you and loved being with the other painters."
"I wanted the holiday to go on forever... thanks so much for your inspired teaching."
"The Fattoria Mose is a wonderful location."